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MIT student blogger Chris S. '11

Second Day of Class by Chris S. '11

Course shopping and such.

I don’t make schedules or use planners.

In fact, I don’t even use Google Calendar.

It is slightly amusing to see fellow classmates toting multicolored, multi-ringed, colorful planning books complete with enough pens to double the colors of the rainbow. In a class that I was in today, a classmate next to me opened up her Google Calendar (complete with tabbed events in 10 different colors) and I realized that if I cross my eyes slightly, her calendar almost resembles the pointillist works of Seurat. Pretty cool actually.

I realized in college over the last two years that this lack of organization was partly due to never getting used to having a planner (I jot it down and never open the planner again), but mainly due to apathy and laziness. I’ve realized that the philosophy which works the best for me is, “well, if I can’t remember the event, then it must not be important enough in the first place.” And thus I’ve mentally justified my use of not using schedulers or planners. :P (don’t worry – this just means i have to prioritize earlier)

I do keep a Post-It pad with me on my desk and in my backpack. When I have to remember really important events (like where my classes are meeting or my adviser’s phone number), I usually write them down on a Post-It note, and then stick it somewhere where I’ll remember to look at (like on the wall, or in my pocket most of the time…haha).

In defense of not using a schedule, I think my primary reason is that I enjoy the feeling of spontaneity in a day. I enjoy not having everything laid out in a regimented fashion on a sheet of paper or on a screen. There’s a certain peace of mind about thinking that right now I’m living in THIS moment, without thinking about the classes, the meetings, and other events that I’ll need to be rushing off to later. Which is also sometimes why I slip off and just amble along the Charles during the pauses in my days since getting back to Boston (the river is beautiful now). There’s a certain serenity and peace about grasping on to those little pauses during the day – something that I know will be much harder to do once I enter The Real World after the next two years.

I shall stop beginning my paragraphs with the letter I.

But ANYWHOO that was a long explanation on why I don’t ever have any of those cool visual schedules to tell you what my scheduling looks like for the upcoming semester. =p

So these two days of class has been pretty intense.

Well, so for everyone non-frosh, this Tuesday was Reg Day, where we go meet with our advisers and register for the classes that we’ve pre-reg’ed for and which we will be taking for the upcoming semester. Well, the thing is, now that having finished most of the biology core requirements, I have a lot of space for electives, and deciding which exactly to take is hard! (yes, once you finish the GIRs and many of your major requirements, course selection does become difficult) Thus, pretty much my adviser signed off on the litany of classes I initially put on my schedule and I set off to explore the classes that I’ve signed up for (but also many others which I didn’t initially anticipate).

Yesterday, I attended a total of EIGHT hours of class (one three-hour class, one two-hour class, two 1.5-hour classes). This makes for my most productive day ever since coming to MIT (I didn’t even have eight hours of class in one day during high school, lol). This was what it looked like:

9:30 AM – 11 AM (7.06 – Cell Biology)
For me, this is my last Course 7 requirement in the 7.0x string, beginning from 7.01, going through 7.02, 7.03, and 7.05). As customary with the biology core requirements, it’s a very full class, with many familiar faces from 7.03 and 7.05. The best thing I got out of the first class – Prof. Lodish: “Biology IS History.” (he was trying to tie in how biology is a chain of evolutionary events, just like history is a chronicle of past events). This was really interesting because I’m seriously looking into declaring a 21H (history) double major during my remaining semesters here – I’m going to be taking probably two history courses this semester to explore the department and then making a decision in the spring.

11 AM – 1 PM (7.21 – Microbial Physiology)
So initially, I didn’t think I was going to be taking this class, because 1) I know pretty much next to nothing about bacteria except how to grow them in the lab and 2) the course title sounds daunting (how can you have an entire class about microbes?). But after this summer, my friend’s girlfriend at Berkeley who is a Microbial Biology major told me to give the subject a try, so I went for the first session. The class is interesting since it’s the smallest biology class I’ve been in since coming to MIT, and even among the 40 or so students who are there, it was a 50-50 split between grad and undergrad students! (it’s a joint grad/undergrad course, I realized later). The class seems to be focused heavily on science literature discussion, which would probably be a departure from the traditional “lectured-at” biology classes that I’ve been in, so maybe I will end up giving this a try.

1 PM – 2:30 PM
Lunch break so I wouldn’t starve.

2:30 PM – 4:00 PM (9.01 – Intro to Neuroscience)
This is the gateway course to the BCS (Brain and Cognitive Science – Course 9) department, and thus it’s usually full of sophomores who are taking the course as their first foray into Course 9. I’ve heard a lot of good things about this class from non-course-9 majors who’s been through the class, describing the class as engaging and even fun, so I thought I would give it a try, from having taken an onslaught of biology and chem classes since I exited the GIRs. I thought the first class seemed promising, so I’ll probably just stick it through and see what happens :) (oh and the class is in the beautiful BCS building (building 46). being in that building always makes me so happy, lol)

4:00 PM – 7:00 PM
Took the bus to Harvard on an errand, and had a great dinner at the Vietnamese place next to Harvard Square. I must honestly say that all east coast Asian food has paled in comparison that in the Bay, after this summer, sadly – but nonetheless, it was still good. :)

7:00 PM – 10:00 PM (21H.308 – the Vikings)
Originally I was going to take 21F.712 (which is like “Spanish 5” here), but then this history deal came up and I thought I should look into more history classes this semester, so I signed up for this – it’s a totally different feeling having classes at night, actually. The class itself isn’t bad, but I might be looking into another history class since it was a bit of just “meh” for me.

10:00 PM – 12:30 AM
Went home, and iHouse had an impromptu Wii party (while we still have the time and energy to before the Great Academic Onslaught), which culminated into me getting wacked by the Wii controller during Wii Boxing and getting a huge bump on my forehead (it didn’t really hurt much, but it was crazy how fast it swelled up ). I’m afraid that Wii Boxing turned more into Real Life Boxing, haha. (hey – at least we didn’t break the TV :P)

I finished up “course shopping” today by going to another three classes –

9:00 AM – 11:00 AM (7.20 – Human Physiology)
This is an earlyyyyy class! ><” but otherwise, the content seems fascinating actually. It’s interesting how MIT would structure a physiology class around the molecular basis, rather than just straight-up memorization. (ie. the class going to explain from a biochemical perspective how parts of your body work rather than making student memorize names to body parts or names of bones).

I will probably blog more about the bio major before I graduate, but this just illustrates again that Biology here is really a THINKING major, not the typical run-of-the-mill biology majors you are familiar with (the ones that make you memorize phylum names or trivia – like AP Biology). Just like the engineering courses here, the focus is on problem-solving, and I would say the focus is definitely on “why?” rather than just “what?”

11:00 AM – 12:30 PM (7.30 – Ecology I)
I signed up for this class because I think it’ll also be cool to explore ecology, which I briefly touched on after self-studying all of AP Environmental Science in 60 hours during my senior year of high school. -___-;; Unbeknownst to me, I actually stumbled upon a Course 1 CI-M* class.

(we have things called CI classes at MIT – which stands for Communication Intensive. it’s basically another way of saying that there’s going to be a lot more essay writing in the class, usually ending in some sort of lengthy paper. there are CI-Hs, and CI-Ms. CI-Hs are CIs in the humanities, which you take as part of your HASS (humanities) requirement for graduation. CI-Ms are CI classes in your major, which you have to take two to graduate – most CI-Ms in the science majors are lab classes, and your resulting write-up and paper is counted as the CI aspect)

There is a major 10-15 paper/project assigned for the course, but I think it may prove to be an interesting challenge, so I guess I’ll keep it and see how it goes. As this is also a Course 1 class, there’s plenty of 1C (civil engineering) and 1E (environmental engineering) majors in the course, so it was also cool to be in a class with a different crowd.

12:30 PM – 1:00 PM
Short lunch at Stata.

1:00 PM – 2:30 PM (21H.466 – Imperial and Revolutionary Russia)
This is a tiny class! (7 people) I actually miss these classes a lot from high school, since the two years past then has generally been lectures with 100+ kids – even most of my HASSes had 20 or 30. The course content already proves to be pretty engaging so I’m definitely looking forward to how this goes in the coming semester.

SOOO that concludes all 13 hours of course-shopping, and as you can see that’s a total of 84 (12×7) credits, which is NOT a good idea (but which I can actually technically take since there are surprisingly no scheduling conflicts, lol – and I don’t even have class on Friday! I don’t know how all of this worked out, haha).

I’m definitely keeping 7.06, 9.01, and 21H.466, dropping 21H.308, most probably keeping 7.30, and either 7.20 or 7.21 (I really want to take 7.20 but I have a pretty full semester, considering I’m probably also doing a UROP, so I’m not sure whether to drop it (i’ll be somewhat sad) or stick it through on Pass/D/F (the class is informally known for its difficulty)). I’m aiming for 60 credits (5 classes) + UROP, and potentially another history class if I can find one that fits in my schedule and one that I’m interested in.

In any case, let’s hope sleep and sanity isn’t a problem this semester :)

19 responses to “Second Day of Class”

  1. Kim'12 says:

    FIRST!

    And good job on your course shopping!

    I am going for 48 units and a 20 hour job.
    60 units just sounds a bit too much for me to do.

  2. I remember ‘the day’ I didn’t need a calendar…I was young and could remember things. Now…I’m ‘older’ and constantly refer to my old fashioned planner that is made from paper! Enjoy your youth and your memory…you still have a few good years left! Have fun this year! smile

  3. Piper '12 says:

    I was forced to use a planner at some point in my education. I’m really glad I was, though. This has evolved into a Special planning method – I use a google calendar for “events”, but my planner for planning out schoolwork with deadlines. (I also have a to-do list in the form of hiveminder, a .txt, and a Macbook Post It widget, on different “levels” of importance.)

    I personally plan in order to put things out of my mind, not to be constantly thinking about my day. I have a terrible memory, though. It’s a curse. As for spontaneity, I don’t do everything on my calendar. I have juggling club and jitsu there so I know when they’re happening, but there’s nothing stopping me from taking a random trip to the Boston Commons instead (which I’ve done many, many times).

    Whatever floats your boat ^.^

  4. anonymous says:

    i have been taking five one hr classes and one 2 hr class from the last year and will have to go on with them till the end of this session …
    indian edu system -…not so good

  5. Karen says:

    I have your present, how should I get it to you? Also, Building 46 rocks. There’s a super awesome couch on the 6th floor and the wifi rules.

  6. VAL '14? says:

    I, for one, LOVE Google Calendar; this love stems from my bit of an obsession with schedules. To keep track of homework, I print out my Google calendar for the week and keep it in a small binder, writing homework assignments in each day’s column. It’s quite efficient and comprehensible.

  7. nikki says:

    BTW, how’s the WiFi at MIT? Is it available ‘everywhere’? Is it ‘fast’?

  8. Connie '12 says:

    Woo, I’m in 7.30/1.018 too! 1C FTW.

  9. Anonymous says:

    I really know what you mean about it being hard to choose classes. I feel like the math major is like that from the outset, since it’s so flexible/doesn’t actually have core required classes, really.

  10. nikki says:

    I don’t use any origanisational methods now, but back when I did, I had a program (which I wrote) that kept track of ‘tasks’. I could group tasks into ‘projects’. I could assign deadlines to tasks. On any day, the tasks scheduled for that day showed up in the ‘Today’ list. Then, there were tasks which weren’t scheduled. Those went either in ‘Waiting’ (waiting for someone/something else) or ‘Someday’ (like, ‘get a haircut’). I could move any of these tasks to the ‘Today’ list if I wanted.

    I kept a little card with me when I went to school each day and wrote down any tasks I’d want to save (homework, remember something, etc.). Then when I came back home, I added it to the task list. Anything that had to be done that day was adde directly to the ‘Today’ list.

    Then, I just did what was in the ‘Today’ list. That’s it. grin

    It worked pretty well.

    Easier to manage than a large calendar of events.

  11. Anonymous says:

    Yeah… best of luck with the 100-page psets in 7.20!

  12. Love '10 says:

    “It’s interesting how MIT would structure a physiology class around the molecular basis, rather than just straight-up memorization.”

    Someone is mistaking “physiology” for “anatomy.” “Molecular basis” is the definition of “physiology,” and “rather than just straight-up memorization” is why the class title doesn’t have the word “anatomy” in it!!

  13. Anonymous says:

    If you can do data and experimental analysis (which is what all 7.20 tests test), you will be good.

    Just don’t forget that if you use P/D/F on it, it won’t count as one of the 3 Course 7 electives.

  14. Neel says:

    Well it seems interesting this passion you have. I am a Mauritian and i will be done with school next year or so. I am going to send my application letter to MIT next year. I will be going to have the SAT examination in November and well I am feeling good about it.
    However I am a bit confused about filling up the application letter for MIT admission. If anyone out there could help me out, I would be glad. My email add is [email protected]

  15. Anonymous says:

    Wow…a biology and history double major sounds really cool!

  16. Bianca says:

    About schedules – fair enough, really; if you ended up in MIT without using a schedule your entire life, you did something right (:

    Kudos for the joke about Seurat.

    Not a huge Biology fan BUT your Russian History class sounds amazing. How can there only be seven people in that class?!

    Just keep blogging & you’ll get some time to contemplate & sanity won’t leave you!

  17. Wang Wei Ko says:

    Wow I am so happy to discover another person of my type! I was always urged to schedule things down and carry them, but honestly I hardly look again what I wrote…
    True. Sometimes things slip off, and its not fun xD

    But I really hate the ‘roboticazation’ of my everyday life!

    I am so glad to know that someone actually survived under those circumstances!

    (And yes… SF’s food can be compared to Tw’s but sadly east coast’s still has some way to go)

  18. Vivian '12 says:

    I got myself a Moleskine planner and have never looked back since.

    I do, however, hate electronic calendars. Especially when I just want to take a quick glance at it and can’t be bothered to pull out my laptop and wake it from standby.